Australia has battled drought, devastating wildfires, floods, and a host of other disasters in recent years, and is now being bedeviled by locusts, ABC News (Australia) reports. The swarms of insects, which can destroy a field in minutes, have already turned up in parts of New South Wales.
Humans have been battling locusts for tens of thousands of years, and indeed, plagues of the insects are even mentioned in the Bible. And though they’re associated in the mind with the wrath of an angry deity, they are, in fact, a real problem to this day.
In Australia, plague locusts, as they’re called, generally lay dormant during times of scarcity. During bumper crops, however, the animals return with a vengeance.
Right now, Australia appears to be in the early stages of this year’s locust infestation.
“We are finding that some of them are starting to mate, so now we just want landholders to monitor where they are, give us a GPS coordinate, let us know if they are test-drilling or if they’ve got eggs on board,” said Senior biosecurity officer Robynne Wells-Budde.
She’s asking landowners, if they can, to catch a few living locusts, freeze them, and put them in the mailbox so they can be delivered to her for identification. Absent actual samples of adult locusts, Wells-Budde is asking landowners to check the ground for signs that the insects have laid eggs in the soil, via holes that females have drilled into the ground to lay eggs. The presence of such a hole doesn’t necessarily indicate that there are eggs within; just that the female has dug a hole there for her eggs.
“We need people to start monitoring, so we know where they are and can get on top of them as quickly as possible,” she said.
Locusts normally hatch in the spring, which gives Australia a few months to prepare before a full-on infestation could develop.
The last major locust infestation in Australia took place in 2015.
Outside of Australia, this year has seen locust plagues in Africa and the Middle East.
As The Christian Post reports, the region has already been bedeviled by a first wave of the insects, and a second, even-deadlier wave is on the horizon. Government resources to battle the infestations are already stretched thin due to battles with the coronavirus pandemic, and widespread crop loss could occur in a region where millions of people are already food-insecure.